Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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Horatio Hornblower for PM

I have just spent a couple of months on a leisurely and interrupted re-reading of the Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester, having last (and first) read them nearly four years ago. (One volume is stained with tell-tale red dust, which reveals that I read it at the 2007 Scout Jamboree, held at Elmore during the peak of the drought when the entire site was a dustbowl.) My original reading had been prompted by watching the excellent British series of telemovies starring Ioan Gruffudd; my re-reading was prompted by reading someone else’s review of the books.

They are well-written and enjoyable novels, which capture the era of the Napoleonic Wars and vividly portray life at sea in the Royal Navy. Yes, you can get sea-sick while reading them, and you’ll baulk at the thought of salt beef, ship’s biscuit and a limited ration of tainted water for dinner.

The hero of the saga is, of course, the eponymous Horatio Hornblower, the self-doubting tone-deaf officer who rises through the ranks from midshipman to admiral, via a series of escapades that reveal his character.

And what a leader he turns out to be. Here is a man of decisiveness, who knows how to get the best from his crew. He is a man of action, who would rather do something himself than rely on others to decide his fate. He is a man who agonises over the loss of honour that he will experience when, in his efforts to stave off further war, he lies to a French captain by saying that Napoleon has died … and he is one to whom miracles occur, because it turns that unbeknown to Hornblower, Boney had, in fact, kicked the bucket some three weeks earlier. He has compassion and, within the conventions of the day, a sense of wanting equality for the lower classes.

Now I will freely confess that knowledge of how to set fore t’gallant studding sails, how to sight and range 18 pounder cannons, how to jury rig a spar as a mizzen-mast, how to kedge off a ship that has grounded, and how to rig a sea-anchor attached to the pintles of a rudder to cripple a ship* is not necessarily needed for running a country.

But I reckon Hornblower would make a good PM.

* Yes, you too can extend your vocabulary in a nautical direction. Just read the books.

(I freely confess that the impetus for the slant taken in this review came from another blog: the coalition of awesomeness. The coalition’s current project involves nominating possible world leaders, and so far they have some excellent candidates.)

2 comments to Horatio Hornblower for PM

  • I hear that Captain Kirk was modeled on Horatio Hornblower. Or at least somewhat inspired by.

    My brother listened to the Aubrey-Maturin series on CD while commuting in California. He said it was very good.

    • Helen

      I’ve read one of the O’Brian novels, and enjoyed the movie Master and Commander, but I found Forester’s series more enjoyable. O’Brian was a bit more of an effort, both as a reader and because it actually seemed as if O’Brian was trying too hard to be clever. YMMV!

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